The purpose of this review is to report the personal experience on growth and pubertal development in a large number of thalassaemic and ex-thalassaemic patients followed at the Pediatric and Adolescent Unit of Ferrara. Secondary amenorrhoea (SA), hypogonadism and short stature are the commonest endocrine and auxological complications. The anterior pituitary gland is particularly sensitive to free radical oxidative stresses and exposure to this. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) shows that even a modest amount of iron deposition within the anterior pituitary can interfere with its function. Other possible cause of hypogonadism in β-thalassaemia major include liver disorders, chronic hypoxia, diabetes mellitus and zinc deficiency. The treatment of pubertal disorders consists of hormone replacement therapy with sex steroids. Successful induction of spermatogenesis and ovulation has been reported after hormonal stimulation with gonadotrophins. Height above the 10th centile was achieved in 50% of males and 64% of females. Eight prepubertal thalassaemic patients, 6 males and 2 females, ranging in age from 8.6 to 11.7 years, were treated with GH. After the first 12 months of GH treatment a significant increase of growth velocity was observed in 6 patients who doubled growth velocity before basal value (4 cm or more above the basal value), 2 patients had a partial response (2–4 cm above the basal value). In the following 3 years all thalassaemic patients had a partial response to the treatment with GH. These data indicate that despite somewhat reduced sensitivity to GH, compared to GH deficiency children, there is evidence indicating that thalassaemic patients may benefit from GH treatment. Sixty-eight thalassaemic patients (30 males and 38 females) who had successfully undergone bone marrow transplantation (BMT) during childhood were studied. Following BMT growth rate decelerated when compared to Tanner and Whitehouse standards. Twenty-nine ex-thalassaemics reached final height. The patterns of growth during puberty was variable in ex-thalassaemic males, while in all but 3 ex-thalassaemic females we observed an improvement in the percentile of standing height. A gonadal dysfunction was found in 68% of ex-thalassaemic patients. Since the quality of life of these patients is an important aim, it is vital to monitor carefully the growth and pubertal development in order to detect abnormalities and to initiate appropriate and early treatment.

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